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LIVE! Won't grant visa to any of your officials: Sushma warns Amazon

20:41  Won’t grant visa to any of your officials: Sushma warns Amazon:  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has threatened stern action against Amazon if it doesnt withdraw products ‘insulting’ the Indian national flag.

‘Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately.

‘If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier,’ Swaraj said in a series of tweets.

She was intimated on Twitter by a user that Amazon Canada is selling ‘Indian Tricolour doormats’.

‘@SushmaSwaraj Madam. Amazon Canada must be censured and warned not to sell India flag doormats. Please take action,’ the user Atul Bhobe with handle @atulbhobe had tweeted with this picture.

To which the minister replied, Indian High Commission in Canada: This is unacceptable. Please take this up with Amazon at the highest level.

Photograph: @atulbhobe/Twitter


20:29  2 die in firing at TMC office in Bengal:  JUST IN: Two people have succumbed to the injuries after unknown persons opened fire at Trinamool Congress party office in Kharagpur in West Medinipore.

Five people were injured in the firing in the evening.

More details awaited. — ANI


20:01  Worst is yet to come: Manmohan on demonetisation:  Amid fears of a decline in the country’s GDP, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned the people today that the worse was yet to come in the wake of demonetisation which he termed as a “disaster”. 

At a convention called by Congress on demonetisation, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram claimed there was no record of the Cabinet meeting of November 8 when the government had said to have taken the decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In his address at the ‘Jan Vedna’ conclave, Singh termed demonetisation as a “disaster” and said things were going from bad to worse and that the worse was yet to come.

He dismissed as “hollow claim” Prime Minister Narendra “Modi’s propaganda” that things have started looking up. 

The former Prime Minister said it was the “solemn duty” of all Congress men to tell the people the wrongs that have been done by Modi and that a “clarion call” should be given to the countrymen to “awake and rise” up in protest.

Both Singh and Chidambaram said there would be decline in the country’s gross domestic product because of demonetisation. 

Chidambaram, in his address, said there is no record of the Cabinet meeting of November 8. 

“Where is the Cabinet note? Where is the Cabinet decision?” he asked. He said that never before in India’s history such a farce has been enacted. 

The former Finance Minister also said that the reputation of RBI is at risk today.


19:55  ‘Raees’ distributor gets threat allegedly from Shiv Sena :  

Film distributor Akshaye Rathi has claimed that he has received threats from Shiva Sena’s Chhattisgarh unit against releasing Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming “Raees”, which stars Pakistani actress Mahira Khan.

In a series of tweets, Rathi said that he has received a letter which has warned him not to screen the Rahul Dholakia-directed movie, slated to release on January 25.

The distributor also tagged Aaditya Thackeray, who is the head of Yuva Sena, a youth wing of Shiv Sena.

“Dear @AUThackeray, We have received this threat letter from your Chhattisgarh unit against playing @iamsrk’s #Raees. Do you endorse it?” Rathi posted alongside pictures of the threat letter.

Addressing Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, he wrote, “@drramansingh ji & @CGAbhishekSingh, Please look into this to let law & order prevail in #Chhattisgarh. #Raees @ChhattisgarhCMO.”

Rathi also made an appeal to all SRK fans to support him.

“Request all @iamsrk fans to help me bring this to the notice of @AUThackeray. I’m sure he will take action against this nuisance. #Raees.” 


19:31  Raj Thackeray to go ahead with ‘son of soil’ stand in BMC polls:  

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday said that he has not given up his party’s agenda of reservation in jobs for locals.

Raj, who floated MNS a decade back after breaking away from Shiv Sena, made it clear in a media briefing that he would stick to “Marathai manoos” (son of the soil) plank in the coming round of city polls. 

He said his party intends to contest all 10 municipal corporation elections in the state. 

Raj accused the BJP of indulging in “double talk”.

“The party shares power with Shiv Sena in BMC and still criticises that there is a lot of corruption in the Corporation. 

If there is corruption, the BJP is also party to it,” he said. H


18:56  Sidhu would soon join Congress ‘unconditionally’: Amarinder:  Putting at rest talks of Navjot Singh Sidhu being offered the post of deputy chief minister if Congress party comes to power in Punjab, the state Congress chief Amarinder Singh today said the cricketer-turned- politician would soon join the party “unconditionally”. 

The decision on deputy chief minister would be taken by the party National president and vice president at an “appropriate time”, he said. 

“Sidhu’s decision to join the Congress was unconditional. No strings attached,” the former Punjab chief minister said.

He said Sidhu would be the party’s candidate from Amritsar East, as announced by his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu. 

“The delay in his joining was due to his professional commitments, which he wanted to conclude before getting into the election gear,” Amarinder said in a statement.

On the delay in the announcing remaining candidates for the Punjab polls, he said it would be announced today.

Further explaining the delay, he said the party’s central leadership has five states to look after “which naturally leads to some delays in the decision-making process”.  


18:14  Bomb alert on Malaysia-bound planes at Mumbai airport:   Security agencies at the Mumbai airport were on their toes following an Interpol alert about a bomb threat to some flights to Malaysia, forcing the agencies to carry out an extensive search of three Kuala Lumpur-bound aircraft as well as their passengers and cargo.

A message was received on Monday from Interpol by security agencies about a possible bomb on flights departing to Malaysia from Mumbai, following which three planes were sanitised till early morning the next day but nothing was found, sources said.

As part of the sanitisation exercise, passengers of all three flights were deplaned, their baggage offloaded and an extensive search was carried out, they said.

The entire operation was done by the CISF and other security agencies, the sources added.

Accompanying photograph has been used for representational purpose only.

18:12  Tihar now has a woman superintendent for men’s jail:  

“Don’t call me a jailer” says a smiling Anju Mangla, the first woman in-charge of a men’s prison in high-security Tihar jail.

Two women, Kiran Bedi and Vimla Mehra, have served as DG of Tihar but it’s for the fist time that a woman has been appointed as the superintendent of a men’s jail and has a one-to-one interaction with male inmates on daily basis.

Mangla, who is looking after around 800 prisoners in the age group 18-21 years, is not your quintessential tough jailer.

The affable officer says she prefers to be called a Superintendent rather than a “jailer”, a term that she feels creates an image of a “harsh” person.

Having served as the superintendent of the women’s jail, she says that her mantra is to create a personal rapport with the prisoners, whether male or female.

“The inmates are like children for me. They are quite vibrant, young and full of energy but they have been on the wrong side of the law,” she adds.

Mangla prefers to call her jail a ‘gurukul’ or a ‘hostel’ where the inmates are given education.


17:28  Sensex zooms 240 points, closes at 2-month high:  BSE Sensex zoomed nearly 241 points today to close at a two-month high of 27,140.41 and NSE Nifty surpassed the crucial 8,300-mark on widespread gains following sustained buying by participants amid encouraging start of the corporate earnings season.

A better closing at other Asian markets and a mixed trend at European bourses in their early trade too influenced sentiments.

Brokers said the market has regained its strength as DIIs continue to pour into the domestic market, helping the key indices to recapture their respective key levels.


17:26  Imposing service charge is unfair trade practice, says Minister Paswan:  Imposing service charge is unfair trade practice, and consumers need not pay it, Consumers Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.   

He added that the price list in hotel menu cards should reflect all costs, including service charge which if paid by consumers should be “given to poor waiters”.

17:14  HSBC sees Sensex at 30,500 by year-end on govt reforms:  Global financial services major HSBC has set an optimistic benchmark BSE Sensex target at 30,500 for December-end, 2017 saying that structural reforms like demonetisation and GST will boost growth in the long run.

Besides, the growth would be helped by higher public investment, bankruptcy code and direct transfer of subsidies. “It could be possible that India will soon adopt the challenging yet beneficial path to reform and reaps the harvest of good governance, buoyancy in tax revenue and an environment conducive for business activity, far from fear of red tape and complex and opaque norms,” HSBC Global Asset Management Company CIO Tushar Pradhan said.

Exuding optimism about India’s growth trajectory, Pradhan said that “HSBC has set a Sensex target at 30,500 for December-end 2017”. Sensex is currently trailing at 26,000-27,000 levels. The benchmark closed today at 27,140.41 — up 240.85 points from the previous close.


17:12  Paytm is Pay To Modi, Rahul’s surgical strike against PM:  Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who is in Delhi for the Congress Working Committee meeting, is addressing the convention at Talkatora stadium. Highlights…

— Found Congress symbol in Shiv-ji, Gurunanak, Buddha, Mahavir’s pictures. Asked Karan Singh (former ruler of Jammu and Kashmir) what does it mean? He said,’daro mat, sachhayi ka saamna karo’.

Congress philosophy says ‘daro mat’, and the other philosophy says ‘daro aur darao’.

— Modi-ji ne kya kiya? kaha ki mera naam  Narendra Modi hai aur mai tumse tumhari (farmers) zameen chheen sakta hoon.

— Will PM Modi tell us how much black money has come back to us.

— Paytm means Pay to Modi.

— The honest stood in line, the corrupt sat at home.

— PM said Army is strong today, was it weak earlier?  On the other hand, we say that India’s Army was, is, and forever will be better than the Israeli Army.

— Wherever he goes… whichever state it may be… he creates fear and these people then convert fear to anger. We are quite the opposite. We in fact, protect the people and encourage them to be fearless.

— He is fooling the people by saying ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Swachh Bharat’. He thinks only he is wise and the rest of India is foolish.

— We are a wise country and we sent the British back, we won’t be fooled by you. You tell me can one man run a country alone?

— PM finished RBI, damaged judiciary. 
— Jaise dialogue hote hain, waise hi PM ne kiya aur kaha “Mitron, ye jo jeb mein 500, 1000 ka note hai ab ye kaagaz ho gaya hai kaagaz”.

— Narendra Modi ji ne socha jab Army surgical strike kar sakti hai, toh unhone gareebon, kisaanon pe kar diya.

16:47  Elections for all municipal corporations in Maharashtra, including BMC, to be held on February 21. Counting and results on February 23.

16:40  China not to sit idle if India sells missiles to Vietnam:Media:   Any moves by India to step-up military ties with Vietnam to counter China will create “disturbance” in the region and Beijing will not “sit with its arms crossed”, state media said today, taking exception to a report that New Delhi plans to sell surface-to-air Akash missiles to Hanoi.

“If the Indian government genuinely treats its enhancement of military relations with Vietnam as a strategic arrangement or even revenge against Beijing, it will only create disturbances in the region and China will hardly sit with its arms crossed,” an op-ed in the Global Times said, highlighting China’s concerns over reports of supply of Akash surface-to- air missile system to Vietnam.

Also read:  How India gains by selling BrahMos to Vietnam


16:32  Sahara diary: SC rejects SIT probe against PM:   Just in: SC rejects plea for a SIT probe against PM Narendra Modi in the Sahara diary case. The Supreme Court is hearing the politically sensitive Sahara-Birla diary case, which involves alleged bribes paid to politicians, including Modi who was then the Gujarat CM.

A fresh affidavit was filed in the case by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan who wants a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team into the alleged bribes paid to politicians, whose names appeared in diaries seized by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax department.

The “Sahara diaries” — a collection of papers and computer print-outs found in raids on the Sahara offices in 2014 — reportedly carried names of politicians from different parties, along with amounts paid to them as bribes.

The list includes the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while he was Gujarat Chief Minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit. 

On November 14, the top court had commented that there was zero material to order a probe and said there was not even the smallest material to substantiate the accusation. Bhushan has now filed fresh papers to substantiate the allegations.

16:31  Just in: Five injured in firing at TMC office in Kharagpur, West Bengal. 


16:24  Yoga practitoner PM can’t even do Padmasana: Rahul hints at insincerity :  Congress leader Rahul Gandhi may have scored a self goal when he quipped that PM Modi, who professed to be a yoga practitioner, could not even do Padmasana.

Rahul, who returned from a short new year holiday targetted the PM’s insincerity saying, “I saw PM Modi doing yoga on yoga day. The PM did all kinds of asanas – quite well – but he could not do the padmasana,” the Congress vice president said at the ‘Jan Vedna Sammelan’ of the Congress in Delhi.

“I’ve done some yoga. Admittedly, I’m not very good at it, but my yoga guru used to tell me that if you practice yoga regularly, you can very easily do the padmasana. The converse though isn’t true. Anyone who doesn’t do yoga regularly can’t do the Padmasana,” Rahul said.

Rahul said, here’s this man who talks of being a regular yoga practitioner, but he can’t even do the simple padmasana. The implication being that the PM is “insincere.”

However, while there may be no pictures of the PM doing the padmasana on Yoga Day, a simple Google search, which revealed this picture alongside, would have saved Rahul some embarrassment.


15:39  In life and in death. :  Life magazine paid tribute to Lal Bahadur Shastri in this January 1966 issue. The reasons behind India’s former PM’s death is still shrouded in mystery. Read the circumstances behind Shastri’s death here.


15:32  Scindia supports open defecation for Jain monks:  Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia has written a letter to Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu to exempt Jain monks and seers to defecate in the open.

In his letter, Scindia quoted a Jain community leader seeking such an exemption to ascetics who have been following this practice for centuries.

In response, Naidu has forwarded the letter to the department concerned.Scindia has attached the letter he has received from Ramesh Chaudhary, President Shri Digamber Jain Panchayat, Ashok Nagar.

The Jain community leader has sought permission to Jain monks and seers to attend the nature’s call in the open. Keeping in mind the age old practice of open defecation, Scindia says that these Jain monks should be allowed to follow their religious and traditional way of life.


15:02  Remembering Lal Bahadur Shastri:   On Lal Bahadur Shastri’s 51st death anniversary today, a beautiful picture of the former PM going through files, with his wife Lalita Shastri next to him on a flight. Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent ostensibly of a massive heart attack, though conspiracy theorists refute it. The picture was tweeted by @IndiaHistorypic

14:54  BSF chief to report today on food for jawans:  The government had ordered the inquiry last night after a BSF constable’s video posts alleging poor quality food went viral on social media. Havildar Tej Pratap Yadav, who was deployed in the Poonch area, also alleged that at times they were forced to sleep on an “empty stomach”. The videos led to an outcry on social media against the alleged ill-treatment being meted out to the soldiers defending the country’s frontiers.  Read more

14:53  BSF jawan’s serious breach of service rules:   “Lost in this din was the fact that a soldier from a uniformed and armed service, posted in a sensitive sector, had breached service rules to make his grievances public. The armed services, including the Central Paramilitary Forces, are governed by strict service rules that prohibit their rank and file from airing their views, especially critical ones, in public. The fact that Tej Pratap Yadav chose to go public with his complaints on Facebook, and found such a large audience, immediately sets a precedent for the other forces. Clearly, soldiering in the age of social media has complicated the statutory relationship between the soldier and the state.”

Read more

14:34  Fan is far from perfect, but…:  So, if you swear by our movie critic, Raja Sen’s reviews, how many of these films make it to your list? Read: Raja Sen’s Top 10 Hindi Films.

14:27  Will not be Punjab CM, will remain Delhi CM, clarifies Kejriwal:  Kejriwal on AAP’s Punjab face.

A day after AAP leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia at a rally in Punjab said that people of the state should cast their votes on February 4 “assuming that Arvind Kejriwal will be the Chief Minister of Punjab”, Kejriwal clarified that the Punjab CM will be from the state.

“I am Delhi chief minister. I can’t become Punjab CM. The CM will be from Punjab,” Kejriwal said.

Sisodia had said that whoever becomes the Chief Minister, it will be Kejriwals responsibility to ensure that all promises made during the election are fulfilled.

Meanwhile, India’s most popular form of showing disaffection of political leadership — a shoe has been thrown at Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal in Bathinda.


14:19  When SRK thanked’s film critic :   Rarely does an actor and a superstar at that, thank a journalist for an impartial, unbiased review of a film that’s been panned. That’s why they also call this superstar King Khan — not just for ruling the box office for close to three decades, but also for his wit, charm and charisma.

Shah Rukh Khan just tweeted to thank journalist and movie critic Raja Sen for his review of the 2016 film, Fan, on @iamsrk  “On behalf of the team thank u @RajaSen for appreciating the nuances of Fan. This one was from the heart & guts. It’s encouraging u like.”

We like too, Mr Khan. 


14:07  I will NOT let SP split, Mulayam rallies party workers :   SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav addressing his supporters and the press outside the party office in Lucknow. Highlights…

“Mere paas jo tha vo sab desh ka hai. Aur mere paas kya hai? Aap sab hain,” Mulayam Singh Yadav tells party workers to rousing cheers.

“Aapki chinta swabhavik hai kyuki Samajwadi Party sangharsh se bani hai. Main gaya tha Delhi ke hamari party ki ekta me koi badhaa na daal paaye, Party ki ekta ke liye humne pura samay diya hai. I’m standing here to tell you that the party will not split. It’s not me trying to split the party, who is the person meeting others?

“I will not let the SP split. When Akhilesh was just two years old I formed the Samajwadi Party during the Emergency.

“Na hum alag party bana rahe hain, na symbol badal rahe hain. Woh (opposing group) dusri party bana rahe hain. Maine unko (opposing group) kaha vivaad mein mat pado. Hum party mein ekta chahte hain. We are not forming a separate party, nor are we changing the symbol. They are (the Akhilesh faction) forming another party. I told them don’t get into arguments. We want unity in the party.

“Shivpal has done a lot for the party. He fought during the Emergency,” Mulayam Singh said, as his brother seated next to him looked on.   


13:44  The Allahabad HC reserves its judgment on a petition challenging the life imprisonment of the Talwars in the Arushi-Hemraj double murder case.


13:40  In West Bengal, the Rajdhani Express blocked by TMC workers at New Cooch Behar Railway Station in protest against TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay’s arrest.

13:39  Mulayam addresses supporters :  SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will address his supporters and the press in a few minutes. The meeting is being held outside the party office in Lucknow.
13:19  Taking Cold Start out of the freezer? :  General Bipin Rawat’s reference to Cold Start raises vital questions about what he means by the phrase and whether he was authorised to speak on the matter by the government. Read more

13:07  Jailed during Emergency, Lalu to get Rs 10,000 pension :  RJD chief Lalu Prasad is now eligible to a monthly pension under the JP Senani Samman Pension Scheme.

Nearly four decades after he was jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) during the JP movement to oppose Emergency, the former Bihar CM will get a pension of Rs 10,000 per month under JP Senani Samman Pension Scheme in the state.

Lalu is likely to get a JP Senani Samman Pension as he has applied for it. We have finalised the formal process of his application for the pension and sent it to the state home department for final approval of pension amount to him, an official of the state general administration department said.

Lalu’s pension will be effective since 2009 which is when the JP Senani Samman Pension Scheme was launched.

Lalu, who was a student leader when Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP launched the total revolution movement. Lalu joined the movement in the mid 70s, during which he was jailed under MISA for opposing Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Interestingly, Lalu named his elder daughter Misa Bharti after MISA as he was in jail when she was born. Misa, a doctor by profession, is a Rajya Sabha MP.

According to government records, Lalu was jailed for more than six months during the JP movement.

As per the state governments decision those who served a jail term of more than six months under MISA and Defence of India Rule during the Emergency from March 18, 1974, to March 21, 1977, would be entitled for a monthly pension of Rs 10,000.

But those who served jail term for less than six months including one month would be entitled for a monthly pension of Rs 5,000.

Nearly 25,00 people are getting monthly pension under JP Senani Samman Pension Scheme in the state now.

It was Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who during his first term as CM in November 2005, announced the pension.

MI Khan in Patna/


12:48  Sasikala’s AIADMK prefers Cong, not BJP, as ally :  In a post-Jayalalithaa era, the question being asked is whether the AIADMK will ally with the BJP. J Jayalalithaa was just six months into her sixth term as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, when her untimely death last month left the party rudderless and open to poaching.

While VK Sasikala has assumed the leadership of the party as its general secretary, sources tell us that the AIADMK under Sasikala does not want to go with the BJP. Instead it prefers a Congress alliance at the state level.

During her discussions with party leaders,  Sasikala has been eliciting views on the reactions of  district and village-level leaders on the AIADMK rule, especially perceptions about CM O Pannerselvam.

One thing that is emerging is that while Sasikala has taken control of the party, the cadre is not in full support of her initiatives.

Interestingly, 10 districts of southern Tamil Nadu that have always been pro MGR and pro Jayalalitha have now turned against Sasikala. This shift will be visible only during polls and not in any other fora.

The district secretaries have given a feedback to Sasikala that minority votes would not be with AIADMK if the party alligns with the BJP. Hence by default the Congress gets the space according to seniors of AIADMK.

While Jayalalithaa always had cordial ties with Narendra Modi she never compromised on her core political philosophy.

It now remains to seen which way Sasikala will steer the party in stormy weather. 

12:27  Five United Arab Emirates diplomats killed in Kandahar bomb in Afghanistan on Tuesday, UAE confirms. 


12:16  Punjab Cong leaders complain to Rahul about Captain:  Punjab Congress President and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh has been camping in New Delhi for a fortnight. His disgruntled and worried party workers have now complained to Congress VP Rahul Gandhi.

With less than a month to go before the state heads for the polls on February 4, Congress leaders from Punjab have told Rahul Gandhi that the Captain is not serious about the electioneering campaign at all and is only keen to push his nominees in each of the assembly constituencies.

It is commonly known that Capt Amarinder singh is upset with the Congress leadership especially with Rahul Gandhi as Rahul has been leaning towards Pratap Singh Bajwa, the MLA from Gurdaspur. The Cong VP could do well to note that public support remains with Amarinder Singh and a pre-poll survey predicts a huge gain for the Congress, with people upset about misrule by the Akalis.


12:00  Widespread resentment on Jallikattu ban, Sasikala writes to PM:   AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan writes to PM Modi, urges him to promulgate ordinance for jallikattu.

Jallikattu, the annual bull festival, is celebrated during Pongal, this weekend.

Sasikala writes saying, “This sporting event is inextricably linked to the rural, agrarian customs, pracices and psyche of the Tamils  and also helps in the conservation of native germplasm, since bulls with excellent physical attributes alone are reared for the sport.”

She said no cruelty or pain is inflicted on the bulls and in fact they are worshipped.  In the two-page letter Sasikala invokes Jayalalithaa saying she was keen that the sport is restored to its original glory as the primal sport of Tamil Nadu.  Read the full letter here.

The AIADMK General Secretary had her first spat with DMK’s MK Stalin for his comments on the Jallikattu issue. She accused the newly appointed working president of DMK of hiding facts, especially on the legal battles to lift the ban on Jallikattu.

Stalin in a political rally at Madurai on January 3 blamed AIADMK and Jayalalithaa for perusing it with the Center to conduct Jallikattu.

Pointing to the facts, Sasikala stated that it was Jayalalithaa who filed a review petition on May 19, 2014. Though DMK wielded power at the Center, its ally Congress party brought in bulls under show-display animals list along with tigers and bears and blamed that it was the reason Jallikattu got banned.

11:26  Obama’s misses, and their consequences, will be with us for a long time. Read

11:24  Little evidence demonetisation succeeded in combating corruption: NYT:  The atrociously planned and executed currency ban and a subsequent cash crunch has made life increasingly difficult for Indians, the New York Times has said in its latest hard-hitting editorial criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modis move to check black money and corruption. The daily said in an editorial on Monday that there was little evidence that it had identified black money hoarders or curbed graft in the country.

Two months after the Indian government abruptly decided to swap the most widely used currency notes for new bills, the economy is suffering, the Times said. The manufacturing sector is contracting; real estate and car sales are down; and farm workers, shopkeepers and other Indians report that a shortage of cash has made life increasingly difficult, it said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that the high value currency that made up 86 per cent of all currency in circulation could no longer be used in most transactions and would be replaced by new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. Modi said this was necessary to combat corruption, black money and terror funding.

But the swap was atrociously planned and executed. Indians had to line up for hours outside banks to deposit and withdraw cash, the daily observed. New notes have been in short supply because the government did not print enough of them in advance. The cash crunch has been worst in small towns and rural areas. The amount of cash in circulation fell by nearly half, from 17.7 trillion rupees ($260 billion) on November 4 to 9.2 trillion ($135 billion) on December 23, the Times said citing the Reserve Bank of India.

No economy can lose that much currency in a few weeks without creating major hardship certainly not one like that of India, where cash is used for about 98 per cent of consumer transactions by volume. And while a growing number of people have debit cards and cellphones that can be used to transfer money, most merchants are not set up to accept such electronic payments, the Times said.


11:16  Jawan’s family rubbishes BSF’s claims he is mentally unstable:   Imposing faith on Border Security Force (BSF) jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s claims, which was to expose corruption in the higher order, his family, on Wednesday, reiterated his charges and said what he showed was the truth.

Tej Bahadur’s wife Sharmila rubbished BSF’s claims, which termed him mentally unstable, and questioned why was he sent to the border, if he was mentally unfit.

“What my husband did is right and for the welfare of the soldiers. It is not wrong to demand for food. He has only shown the truth, but these people are saying his mental health is not well. If he was mentally unstable, why was he sent to the border?” she said.

Sharmila also urged the government to investigate the matter and ensure justice to her husband and family.

Rohit, son of Tej Bahadur, also supported his father’s demand for good food and expressed his inclination towards investigation of the matter.

“We have been unable to contact him since last evening. We last spoke to him yesterday evening. We don’t know where has he been kept and in what circumstances. He just demanded for good food, which is not wrong. We want to know what is happening with him and if he is fine. I want this matter to be investigated and wish he gets justice,” he said.

In a video that went viral on Monday, BSF jawan Tej Badur of the 29 battalion Seema Suraksha Bal was seen exposing the rot in the system by revealing the deeply ingrained corruption in the higher order, saying that the troops there were not even getting basic three square meals.

Speaking from an undisclosed location, Yadav could be seen saying that the soldiers stand for 11 straight hours every day, regardless the weather or temperature, but they are treated in the worst possible way one can imagine.

“Neither the media, nor any minister tries to take a note on how are we going through this (harsh weather). Our conditions are still worst. (humare halat wahi darbartar hain). After this, I will send three videos that will show how our officials are mistreating us. We do not want to blame any government, because they give everything we need, but our senior officials sell everything (for their own profit),” the jawans can be seen saying.

However, refuting the allegations labelled by soldier Tej Bahadur, the BSF on Tuesday accused the latter of indulging in indiscipline act and added that it is a sensitive matter for the forces.

Image: BSF jawan Tej Bahadur’s wife Sharmila


10:59  NE-YO @NeYoCompound tweets this sketch as Barack Obama signs off after eight years of presidency.


10:55  Mystery over Om Puri’s death continues, police yet to obtain his mobile phone:  Mystery over what happened in wee hours of Friday when actor Om Puri passed away at his Versova flat remains a mystery. On one hand, police is awaiting forensic and histopathology report to find the exact cause of death and recording statement of people close to Puri. But mobile phone which remains a critical part of any investigation is not with Oshiwara police. Read more

10:42  US Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement. Read
10:39  Why do we treat our soldiers like this?:  “We owe our existence to the men in uniform, and we owe it to them to cleanse the armed forces by driving away every bit of corruption that eats into it,” argues Sudhir Bisht. Read the column here.

10:37  Cong’s ‘Jan Vedna’ meet in Delhi today, will Rahul take over as prez? :   To reflect on the sufferings of the people in the wake of demonetisation, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will preside over a convention — Jan Vedna Sammelan — in the capital on Wednesday, a party leader said on Tuesday.

“The convention will highlight the pains and sufferings of the people due to the note ban policy of the Modi government. The party will also highlight the anti-people policies of the government,” said Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil.

The convention will be held from 10 am to 4 pm at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi.

Earlier, Rahul has presided over the party’s foundation day function in December and also chaired a meeting of the party’s Working Committee in the absence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

This is also likely to pave the way for Rahul to take over as the President of the party at the earliest, according to party sources. Asked whether Sonia will be present at the convention, Gohil said that Rahul led the agitation against demonetisation, so he would preside over it.

“We have got a leadership in Rahul, who is not mad for power. We have a system. Tomorrow’s (Wednesday) Jan Vedna Sammelan has been called to raise the issues of the people,’ he added.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, members of the Congress Working Committee, senior party leaders and state leaders will be present at the convention.

“There will be discussions. Every member will express views and share ideas. The party will also pay respect to all those who lost their lives due to demonetisation,’ the party spokesperson said.A resolution would be passed on late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary (which will take place this year), said Gohil.”The Congress will also decide its future course of action with regard to demonetisation and other issues,’ he said.


10:28  BSF Jawan Tej Bahadur Is Right, Media Betrayed Him:  The media is certainly questioning the government after BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s video went viral. But Tej Bahadur has also questioned the media. He has asked us for answers too. His statement – that no one in the media shows the condition that jawans are in – pierces the conscience like an arrow. Because the media has let down jawans like Tej Bahadur and betrayed their trust. The army, paramilitary forces,  the police coerce recruits into remaining mute. Who will give them a voice?

The media often returns after speaking only with officers. During parades, cameras show close-ups of the shoes of jawans during the march-past. Their shoes are shown in sync with a lot of pride, which is genuine and immense, but I wish the cameras would also focus on their stomachs, which, separately from the rigorous physical training they undergo, have shrunk due to hunger.

Read Ravish Kumar’s column here.


10:20  The slightly wistful press pass to Obama’s Farewell Address.  

10:17  NY Times journalist Jodi Kantor @jodikantor: I’m yards away from President Obama, and I can tell you, the loudest cheers of the night were for ending discrimination against Muslims.


09:56  Four high-profile cases will be heard by Supreme Court today:  The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear four high-profile cases today.

One is the plea filed by Taj Mansingh Hotel regarding its renewal on Wednesday. 

The apex court had, on November 21, ordered that the status quo with regard to the Taj Mansingh Hotel be maintained and issued a notice to the New Delhi Municipal Council to reply to plea against the auction of hotel. 

The Delhi high court had earlier dismissed the Tata group’s appeal for retaining management rights over Taj Mansingh Hotel, and told the conglomerate that it will have to participate in the auction process.  

The Supreme Court will also hear the plea filed by the SBI-led consortium of banks against liquor baron Vijay Mallya for recovery of more than Rs 9,000 crore from him. 

The consortium of banks had approached the apex court seeking its intervention in bringing back Mallya to India and also repayment of money which the beleaguered businessman, who has absconded to England, had taken. 

The banks, in their plea, told the apex court that there was an outstanding loan of almost Rs. 9,000 crores against the businessman.  

Another case before the Supreme Court today is the bail plea filed by self-styled godman Asaram Bapu accused in two rape cases. 

On November the apex court 21 refused to give him relief in connection with two rape cases registered against him. 

Asaram had earlier knocked the doors of the apex court seeking bail on health grounds. 

In 2013, a minor girl had alleged that Asaram had sexually assaulted her at his ashram in Jodhpur.  

The Gujarat Government had earlier told the top court division bench that the rape case registered against Asaram would very likely proceed in an expeditious manner, adding that the trial would be completed within six months so the bail should not be granted to him in the case.  

Finally, there is the plea filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking not to provide any tax relief to political parties.  

The petitioner has sought the quashing of the 13(a) of the Income Tax Act which confers tax exemption to the political parties for income from house property, income by way of voluntary contributions, income from capital gains and other sources.


09:48  Sensex breaches 27K, Nifty reclaims 8300 mark in opening trade:  BSE Sensex surged over 151 points to breach the 27,000-level and Nifty hit the crucial 8,300-mark in opening trade today following widespread gains as investors widened their bets amid a firming trend in Asian markets. 

However, caution prevailed ahead of macroeconomic data and quarterly earnings from blue-chip companies.

The 30-share index, which gained 173.01 points in the previous session, added 151.01 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 27,050.57 with all the sectoral indices led by metal, capital goods and bank leading the gains.

The NSE Nifty reclaimed the 8,300-mark by climbing 45.15 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 8,333.75. 

Brokers said a flurry of buying by retail investors and domestic institutional investors amid a firming trend at other Asian markets with commodities-linked shares leading gains boosted by China’s strong inflation reading mainly influenced the sentiment.

Among other Asian markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was trading higher by 0.74 per cent, while Nikkei surged by 0.36 per cent in early trade. Shanghai’s Composite index, however, was marginally down. The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.16 per cent down in yesterday’s trade.


09:45  Akhilesh shuns Mulayam offer, won’t give up SP president post:  

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav would not step down as the Samajwadi Party president, at least not till the election was over, sources said, dealing another blow to hopes of reconciliation in the faction-riddled party.

Akhilesh conveyed the decision to his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, during a meeting on Tuesday morning, nine days after he staged a coup to take control of the party from his father.

Mulayam had extended an olive branch to his son on Monday night when he told media that Akhilesh would be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

It was a climb down from his earlier statement when he told media the party would go into polls without a CM candidate, a public snub to Akhilesh.

According to sources, he also turned down Mulayam’s offer that both the factions withdraw applications submitted to the election commission, staking claim to the party symbol a bicycle.

Mulayam, said sources, was ready to give Akhilesh a free hand in deciding poll candidates, a big reason for chief minister’s running feud with his uncle Shivpal Yadav that is tearing the party apart.

While Mulayam agreed to keep Shivpal, his younger brother, and Amar Singh out of the election, he was firm on not accepting the Akhilesh faction’s decision to throw Singh out of the party.


09:20  ‘Where’s Sasha’: Internet asks as she is missing at Obama’s final address:  US President Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago, and he made sure to give a loving shout out to his family. First lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia were both there to support the POTUS with his goodbye, but Sasha was noticeably absent. 

Where was Sasha Obama at the farewell address? Many have taken to social media looking for the answer — so many, in fact, that a #whereissasha hashtag started trending.

Some users pointed out that Obama’s speech began at 9 pm Eastern on a Tuesday night, meaning Sasha would presumably have school in the morning. 

08:32  ‘Yes we can, yes we did’: Obama bids adieu:  

My fellow Americans, it has been the honour of my life to serve you. I wont stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Obama calls on citizens to have faith in the country.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change but in yours, he says.

“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written

Yes We Can. 

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Obama thanks the crowd and is greeted by his family and the Bidens.


08:26  Barack gets personal — Thanks Michelle, ‘his best friend’, his daughters, and Biden:  Obama is getting onto the personal thank yous. He simply says the word ‘Michelle’, and the crowd erupts and gives the first lady a standing ovation. 

Paying tribute to his wife, Michelle, he says, “For the past twenty-five years, youve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didnt ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour.”

Aww.. This is why we love ‘Barry’. There’s not a dry eye in the house and we can’t help but get misty-eyed ourselves. 

He turns to his daughters (Malia is in the audience) and says, “You have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that Ive done in my life, Im most proud to be your dad.”

And then Obama pays tribute to his VP Joe Biden.

The scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delawares favourite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. 

“Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.”


08:18  ‘Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted’:  

In what he calls his final point”, Obama speaks about the precarious nature of democracy.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions, says Obama.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But its really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power with our participation, and the choices we make.

Speaking of being an active citizen, he says, “If you’re tired of arguing with people on the internet, try talking to them in real life.” If something needs fixing, he says, do something about it. If you’re disappointed in elected officials, try and run for office yourself.”

08:11  It’s interesting to hear Obama specifically calling Russia a rival.

This comes as Senate hearings continue into Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Convention e-mails during the election campaign.

During his speech, he says, “Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbours.” 

Hmmn, is Putin hearing?


08:01  Race remains a potent and divisive force in our society: Obama’s farewell speech:  

Obama, the United States’ first black president discusses race and immigration. 

“Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Ive lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago you can see it not just in statistics, you see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum, he says.

“If we’re going to be serious, we need to uphold laws against discrimination…But hearts must change…”

The US president quoting Atticus Finch, a character from the book How to Kill a Mockingbird, says minorities must also pay attention to the needs of the privileged white guy, while the complaints of minorities must also be listened to. 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of viewuntil you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

He reminds people the Irish and Italians faced the same problems in the past. “But they embraced this nation’s creed and this nation was strengthened….We all have to try harder.”

Image: Obama along with his family marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama to mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’.

07:52  ‘For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough’:  

America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started, says Obama, listing the achievements of his administration, including gay marriage, the Iran deal and killing Osama bin Laden.

Obama calls on the country for unity, speaking about the power of democracy and unity.

On Trump, he says he promised a smooth transition. “It’s up to all of us… our potential will only be realised if our democracy works. If our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us restore the sense of common purpose, that we badly need right now.”

He is calling for solidarity as America moves forward, before ticking off more achievements under his time in office. “We need economic opportunity” and he notes that poverty is falling again.  Unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.

“For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.”


07:48  Tonight it’s my turn to say thanks: Obama’s final speech:  

US President Barack Obama is addressing his farewell speech in Chicago as he closes the book on his presidency. Chicago is his adoptive hometown, where he is addressing a sold-out crowd, not far from where he accepted presidency eight years ago.

“Hello Chicago,” he begins. “It’s good to be home.”

“My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the last few weeks. Tonight it’s my turn to say thanks, whether we’ve seen eye to eye or rarely agreed at all,” says Obama.

He speaks about the importance of conversations with every day Americans.

“They’ve kept me honest, they’ve kept me inspired, they kept me going. Every day I’ve learn from you. You made a better president. You made a better man,” said Obama.

The crowd stops the speech with chants of “four more years”.

“I can’t do that!” says Obama.


00:28  Manish Tewari to join US think-tank as distinguished fellow:  Senior Congress leader and former Union minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari will join a top United States think-tank as a distinguished fellow.

“We are delighted to welcome Manish Tewari to our team. We are eager to draw on his expertise from his years of service to the government of India, and he will be an invaluable addition to the South Asia Center team as we look to deepen our programming on India and the subcontinent,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.

A counsel practicing in Supreme Court, Tewari previously served as a member of Parliament from Ludhiana and is currently the national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.

At the Councils South Asia Centre, Tewari will focus on programming aimed at strengthening US-India relations.

South Asia is a region with complex traditional and human security challenges that is home to almost two billion people, Tewari said.

‘As the new administration takes shape, I look forward to working with the Councils South Asia Center to develop programming on how the new administration can best engage with the region to strengthen key relationships,’ Tewari said in a statement.

Based in Washington DC, Atlantic Council has ten regional and thematic centers.

Source: Rediff